Leonardo: I'm not Inter's saviour
Inter Milan coach Leonardo denied on Saturday he is the club's saviour and also insisted that predecessor Rafael Benitez should not be blamed for the team's early season struggles. Leonardo took over from the Spaniard just before Christmas after Benitez was shown the door following an outburst against the club's directors.
He had just won the FIFA Club World Cup but his side were seventh in Serie A - although with two games in hand - and had finished runners-up in their UEFA Champions League group. Inter seem rejuvenated under the Brazilian, though, and five wins in a row has seen them move up the league table and reach the Italian Cup quarter-finals. But Leonardo says it's too simple to attribute the club's change in fortunes to the change in coach.
"Nothing happens for one sole reason, it's a series of things that either make you a zero or a hero," he said. "Hence it's not a case of me arriving and everything goes well, but I've arrived, the players are coming back (from injury), there's enthusiasm and there's also the base work done by Rafael Benitez that has allowed the players to come back.
"If there were many injuries under Benitez it could be that there were some misunderstandings, and that could happen with me too. Everything together gives a result and other things together give another one. You can't analyse one thing and say Benitez is to blame, Leo is the saviour, that would be too superficial.
"Maybe now Benitez will go to another club, things will go well and he'll win everything. Here, things went a certain way, that's life. So I think it's absurd and embarrassing for the players to be commenting on what went before and what there is now, it's not fair, leave them alone."
Leonardo was answering a question about comments star striker Samuel Eto'o made earlier this week when he said the players owed Benitez an apology for not performing for him as they are for Leonardo. But the Brazilian refused to criticise his player.
"The players should feel calm, they should say what they think without the risk that it's interpreted in the wrong way. And often we place too much importance on what's said or not said.
"I base my opinions on what I see on a daily basis from an amazing forward. Eto'o is in amazing form right now. Together with (Diego) Milito they're forming an incredible partnership and then there's (Goran) Pandev, who's also improving."
While he may well eulogise over his attacking options after 15 goals in five games, Inter have been vulnerable at the back, conceding seven. But Leonardo denies they have problems in defence. "I've heard talk about defensive worries but honestly I don't think there are any," he added. "There are many moments in games and so far I think we've managed them well."